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J Comp Neurol. 1987 Apr 8;258(2):281-96.

Variability in hand surface representations in areas 3b and 1 in adult owl and squirrel monkeys.


Detailed microelectrode maps of the hand representation were derived in cortical areas 3b and 1 from a series of normal adult owl and squirrel monkeys. While overlap relationships were maintained, and all maps were internally topographic, many map features varied significantly when examined in detail. Variable features of the hand representations among different monkeys included a) the overall shapes and sizes of hand surface representations; b) the actual and proportional areas of representations of different skin surfaces and the cortical magnifications of representations of specific skin surfaces, which commonly varied severalfold in area 3b and manyfold in area 1; c) the topographic relationships among skin surface representations, with skin surfaces that were represented adjacently in some monkeys represented in locations many hundreds of microns apart in others; d) the internal orderliness of representations; e) the completeness of representations of the dorsal hand surfaces; and f) the skin surfaces represented along the borders of the hand representation. Owl monkey maps were, in general, internally more strictly topographic than squirrel monkey maps. In both species, area 3b was more strictly topographic and less variable than was area 1. The degree of individual variability revealed in these experiments is difficult to reconcile with the hypothesis that details of cortical maps are ontogenetically specified during a period in early life. Instead, we propose that differences in the details of cortical map structure are the consequence of individual differences in lifelong use of the hands. This conclusion is consistent with earlier studies of the consequences of peripheral nerve transection and digital amputation, which revealed that cortical maps are dynamically maintained and are alterable as a function of use or nerve injury in these monkeys (Merzenich et al., '83a,b, '84a; Merzenich, '86; Jenkins et al., '84; Jenkins and Merzenich, '87).

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